Burkina Faso president refuses to step down

Long-time president Blaise Compaore refuses to heed protesters demands, seeking to lead transitional government instead.

Burkina Faso’s president has refused to resign in the face of violent protests that posed the greatest threat yet to his 27-year rule, saying instead he will lead a transitional government after parliament is dissolved.

Protesters stormed the parliament building in the capital city of Ougadougou on Thursday and set part of it ablaze in a day of violence around the country aimed at stopping a parliamentary vote that would have allowed President Blaise Compaore to seek a fifth term in office.

In a concession to the protesters, the government withdrew the bill from consideration. But the move did not calm protesters, and General Honore Traore, the army’s joint chief of staff, later announced that the government and parliament had been dissolved and a new, inclusive government would be named.

However, the general did not spell out who would lead the transitional government.

At least one person was killed and several others wounded during the unrest, authorities said, and a curfew was put in place from 7pm to 6am.

President Blaise Compaore was seeking his fifth term in office [AP]

‘Duping the people’

After hours of confusion about whether Compaore would hold on to power, and even about where he was, the president spoke briefly on television and radio to stay he was still in charge and would not step down.

“I am available to open discussions with all parties,” he said in a recorded address. The transitional government will include representatives from all sides and work to hold elections within 12 months.

But an opposition leader told the AFP news agency that the army’s seizure of power amounted to a “coup”, adding that they consider the president’s departure “non-negotiable”.

Compaore “is again in the process of duping the people,” said opposition leader Benewende Sankara. “We have been saying for a long time that he must hand in his resignation. His departure is non-negotiable.”

Growing unrest

In a sign of spreading discontent, crowds also attacked the homes of government ministers and looted shops in the country’s second-largest city, Bobo Dioulasso, witnesses said.

“It is over for the regime!” and “We do not want him again!” shouted demonstrators when they heard that the vote on term limits had been stopped.

“It is difficult to say what happens next, but things are out of control because the demonstrators do not listen to anyone,” said Ablasse Ouedraogo, an opposition lawmaker.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called on all parties to end the violence, and was “saddened over the loss of life resulting from recent events,” a statement said.

In a bid to restore calm, military leaders met on Thursday afternoon with the influential traditional chief of the country’s largest ethnic group, the Mossi, according to Jonathan Yameogo, a spokesman for the ruling party.

Burkina Faso has long been known for its relative stability in volatile West Africa, though tensions have been mounting over Compaore’s plans to extend his rule.

He first came to power following an October 1987 coup against then-President Thomas Sankara, Compaore’s longtime friend and political ally, who was shot dead.

Since then, Compaore has been elected four times but the opposition disputed the results.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies